I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book edited by Iona & Peter Opie; illustrated by Maurice Sendak; Candlewick Press, 136 pages ($22).
This fascinating collection of traditional rhymes from the schoolyard was first published in 1947, in a small edition “typical of those days of paper rationing,” Iona Opie writes in her introduction. Sebastian Walker, founder of Walker Books, took the one remaining copy after Peter Opie died in 1982 and gave it to the great Maurice Sendak to illustrate. The result of their brilliant collaboration, first published in 1992, is now back in print. Gems within include the frontispiece, a Sendak group portrait of the publisher, artist and editors. The more than 170 rhymes include insults, some rather surprising graces (“Bless the meat/ Damn the skin./Open your mouth/And cram it in”), riddles, narratives, counting-out rhymes, game rhymes, even some “loonie Latin” (the accompanying Sendak illustration acting as a clue to the pronunciation for the Latin-impaired). The surprising and clever wordplay, accompanied by Sendak’s marvelous, often hilarious artistic interpretations, offer a general commentary on what it means to be human. The valuable notes at the end are a must-read, offering illuminating background on origins of the rhymes or other valuable information including the tidbit that “Peter’s Pop kept a lollipop shop” was a taunt used against Peter Opie as a child.
– Jean Westmoore
Safe House by Chris Ewan; Minotaur, 448 pages ($25.99)
The Isle of Man makes for an intriguing backdrop for “Safe House,” Chris Ewan’s first stand-alone thriller. “Safe House” works as an emotional story of a family dealing with a tragedy and the action-packed tale of a young man caught up in an elaborate kidnapping scheme. “Safe House” also deftly weaves in elements of the locked-room mystery and the village mystery.
Heating engineer Rob Hale’s latest job takes him to a remote farmhouse where two men are staying along with a chatty, lonely young woman named Lena, who begs Rob to come back for her on his motorcycle. But the couple has just caught the end of the motorcycle races when they have an accident. Rob remembers the ambulance taking Lena away. But when he wakes up in the hospital, there is no record of Lena The cops who interview Rob maintain no one is living in the cottage he claims to have visited. Determined to find Lena, Rob teams up with Rebecca Lewis, a private investigator from London. Rob’s parents hired Rebecca to investigate the recent suicide of his sister, Laura.
While the link between Laura and Lena seems too coincidental, Ewan keeps his tightly coiled plot full of plausible twists and turns, each more surprising than the one before.
– McClatchy Newspapers
World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwen; Bauhan Publishing, 317 pages ($22.95)
Christian McEwen’s remarkable “World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down” demands to be read slowly, savored and then allowed to simmer quietly in the soul.
The wonder of this book lies not in its new truths, but rather in its eclectic and quirky reinvention of timeless truths.
While McEwen ties her central focus – “hurry sickness” – to texting, email, the Internet, her book shows that creative men and women have been rebelling against hyper-accelerated lives for centuries.
Lauding nature and “childhood’s golden hours,” McEwen often echoes the anti-technological notes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. But what elevates her book, beyond its rich thought and lush writing, is her emphasis that you don’t need to become a hermit fleeing to a cabin on a pond in order to find a more meaningful life.
– McClatchy Newspapers